The sun shines through the trees of the Black Forest in Germany. (photo via iStock / Getty Images Plus/ legna69)
Germany appears to have accomplished the seemingly impossible.
The country has managed to grow its travel and tourism industry, while simultaneously reducing its overall carbon emissions, according to a new, jointly produced report from the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) and the Saudi-based Sustainable Tourism Global Center.
New data from the report shows that Germany is one of just a handful of major countries that have accomplished such a feat.
In 2019, Germany’s travel and tourism industry generated 10.3 percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions in the country. That figure dropped more than four points to 5.9 percent in 2020 and declined again to 5.8 percent in 2021.
While the decreases are largely due to the fallout from the pandemic, the report goes on to note that between 2010 and 2019, (in other words, before the pandemic became an issue) Germany’s travel and tourism industry “decoupled” its greenhouse gas emissions from its growth.
During that time frame, the country’s greenhouse gas emissions decreased an average of 1.1 percent each year, all while the travel and tourism industry’s contribution to Germany’s economy grew 1.5 percent each year, on average.
“The figures also show that the sector’s emissions intensity continues to decrease,” says the report.
Green Airplane, symbolizing sustainable travel (photo via ALG Vacations)
For instance, in 2010, for every Euro generated by travel and tourism in Germany, the travel and tourism industry emitted about 0.55 kg of greenhouse gas emissions. Fast forward to 2019, with travel and tourism reaching a crescendo, and the emissions figures had dropped by a whopping 22 percent, says the report.
The 2019 figure was 0.43 kg per Euro created by the travel and tourism industry. And greenhouse gas emissions continued to drop in subsequent years, reaching an all-time low of 0.36 kg per Euro generated through the country’s tourism industry in 2021.
The significant decline illustrates the impact of changes implemented by the German government and business leaders to create a more sustainable sector, according to the report.
“Our data shows that Germany is one of the few travel and tourism powerhouses, which is decreasing its absolute emissions whilst continuing to grow year-over-year,” Julia Simpson, WTTC president and CEO said in a statement.
“The travel and tourism sector has decoupled its economic growth from its greenhouse gas emissions and continues to reduce its emissions intensity, but we know there is still work to be done,” Simpson added. “To reach our goals and ambitions, we must make bigger and bolder steps to reduce our absolute emissions.”
Those bolder steps include government support for accelerating the production of sustainable aviation fuels, which will have a major impact on the footprint of the travel industry, said Simpson. Governments also need to step up and bring more renewable energy to national grids.
The WTTC described the new report as one of the “largest research projects of its kind” that can “for the first time ever, accurately report and track” the impact the travel and tourism industry sector has on the environment. The report reviewed data from 185 countries. The WTTC intends to update the carbon emissions data annually moving forward.
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